Darrow Miller and Friends

What’s the Big Deal About Corruption? part 2

[from part 1] Corruption violates at least four principles critical to the flourishing of individuals, communities and nations. These principles are foundational because they are tied to who God made us to be as human beings and the purpose He gave us to live out. …”


  1. The creation or dominion principle.

In Genesis 1:28 God gives all people a divine overarching purpose for their lives on this earth.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Nancy Pearcey warns against corruptionNancy Pearcey, in her book Total Truth, explains why this verse is called the Cultural Mandate.

The first phrase, “be fruitful and multiply,” means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, “subdue the earth,” means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, and compose music. This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations—nothing less.[1]

God gives to every human being the purpose of creating and adding value to this world. Every person is made to create, to contribute, to add value. No one is exempt.

Corruption violates this principle by enabling a person to get value without adding value. The corrupt person does not add value. He does not contribute anything new or substantial.

The classic example is the feudal landlord who installs a chain across a river that flows through his land and then hires a collector to charge passing boats a fee to lower the chain. There is no added benefit, there is nothing productive added, there is no wealth created by the transaction. The land owner has made no improvements to the river and is helping nobody in any way, directly or indirectly, except himself. All he is doing is finding a way to make money from something that should be free. He is taking the wealth of others without creating or adding any wealth in return.

To the degree this principle is violated, the development of a community, society and nation will be undercut.

  1. The love your neighbor principle.

In Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus says that all the commandments are summed up in the command to love God and the second command to love your neighbor as yourself. Galatians 5:14 says, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” God says the purpose of mankind on this earth is to love your neighbor as yourself. What does this mean?

corruption comes in everyday lifeIn simple terms, to love your neighbor is to determine what is good (and best) for the other person and then do this. It is to benefit the other. The word “benefit” comes from the Latin bene facere—to do good to. For example, plumbers love their neighbor by providing reliable piping for clean water and sanitation in a home. They may never see the homeowner, but their quality work contributes to the good of that person. In turn, the homeowner loves the plumber by giving a complete, on-time payment so the plumber can provide for his family. The eyeglass technician loves his neighbor by making a quality pair of glasses that helps another see clearly. The recipient loves back by paying a fair price for the glasses so the technician can feed his family.

These are business transactions, yes. But this mutual exchange of benefit and good is the essence of God’s design for human flourishing. This is why God gave the command to love your neighbor.

Corruption violates this principle. There is no mutual exchange of benefit when one has to pay an “additional processing fee” to get their paperwork done in a timely manner when it should have been done on time without the payment.

There is no mutual exchange of benefit when a government official …

  • Accepts illicit payments to facilitate access to goods, services, or information to which the public is not entitled.
  • Denies access to goods and services to which the public is legally entitled.
  • Receives an illicit payment to prevent the application of rules and regulations in a fair and consistent manner, particularly in areas concerning public safety, law enforcement, or revenue collection.

To the degree this love your neighbor principle is violated, the development of a community, society and nation will be undercut.

  1. The worship God principle.

Our cultures are ultimately a reflection of the God or gods that we worship. Another way of saying this is culture is downstream from worship. That is, the way we do politics, economics and social relationships is downstream from worship. Corruption, as woven into politics, economics and social relationships is downstream from worship.

Who is the God or gods we worship? What is the character and nature of the God or the gods we worship? When these gods are bribable, corrupt culture and behavior follows.

The living God, the Creator God of the Bible, is just. Deuteronomy 10:17 is one of the clearest passages on this subject: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.”

Is the god worshiped humanity itself, because “there is no god?” Is the god worshiped a person or one’s self? If so, humans are corruptible. Corruption creeps in when we deny God.[2]

Psalm 14:1 says:

The fool says in his heart,

“There is no God.”

They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;

there is no one who does good.

Is the god worshiped the spirit world of Animism? Animism is the belief that spirits indwell animals, plants, rocks, rivers, the weather, buildings—all things. These gods are capricious and they can and must be appeased (bribed).

When the gods are bribable, corrupt culture and behavior naturally follows.

corruption is a form of stealing The Creator God of the Bible is incorruptible and will judge corruption. This God says “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). Corruption is a form of stealing. It is ultimately a cost or a loss born by people who receive no benefit. That’s called stealing. We sin against God and man when we steal. We sin against God because it is contrary to His design for humanity. We sin against people because it harms them.

No community, society, or nation will long prosper and develop that worships a corrupt god. None will prosper and develop that is built on stealing.

Finally, morality is not relative. Corruption is not moral in one country and immoral in another. Corruption and stealing are harmful to people in any country. The creation mandate applies to every person in every country, as does the “love your neighbor” principle, and the commandment to not steal. There is a divine judge—God—who will someday judge every person. 1 Corinthians 6:10 says thieves will not inherit the kingdom of God.

  • Dwight Vogt

… to be continued

[1] Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 47.

[2] Mangalwadi, 243

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About 

Before coming to the Disciple Nations Alliance, Dwight worked for 27 years at Food for the Hungry, including field-based leadership roles in Bangladesh, Peru, Thailand and Guatemala. Today Dwight serves as the DNA’s vice president of international programs. He is the author of Footings for Children: Imparting a Biblical Worldview So They Can Thrive. He earned his master’s degree in intercultural studies and missiology from Biola University. He has three adult children and lives with his wife, Deborah, in Phoenix.

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